February 27, 2003, 12:00 AM

A web-based system streamlines Kroger’s hiring

The Kroger Co. started chainwide deployment of the web-based Unicru Inc. Hiring Management System that screens job applicants for experience and skills and checks them against criminal records.

Among the biggest challenges retailers face is hiring the right people-those who are not only more productive over the long term but who also avoid the temptation to steal from their employer. To control employee theft, retailers have deployed a slew of reactive measures, such as monitoring systems, turnstiles and, more recently, software that checks for discrepancies in POS records. Now more retailers are going proactive and adopting web-based tools to screen out undesirable employees in the first place.

Last month, the Kroger Co. started chainwide deployment of a web-based system that screens job applicants for experience, skills and criminal records. Its Unicru Inc. Hiring Management System integrates with databases from third-party firms that help retailers screen out applicants with histories of theft, providing an automatic alert to hiring managers.

A nine-month test in 40 Kroger stores produced dramatic, two-barreled results, Kroger says. It reduced both product shrink and employee turnover, the latter by 25%. Kroger employs more than 230,000 store-level associates at 2,400 stores in several supermarket chains

The Unicru system is designed to lower hiring costs and save application processing time by giving managers web-based access to pre-hire summaries that help them decide which applicants to interview and bring further into the hiring process. Job applicants use the Unicru system to fill out online application forms either at in-store kiosks or on Kroger’s web site.

The system also integrates with third-party firms that help process government tax credits and unemployment insurance claims. Retailers can earn tax credits based on the amount of government financial assistance received by hired applicants, such as those who were on welfare or receiving food stamps. The Unicru system is designed to ask applicants questions that trigger an alert about a retailer’s eligibility to receive tax credits; the alert is then automatically forwarded to hiring managers as well as to a third-party firm that processes such claims. Hiring managers can also print out forms already filled out with the information required for submitting paper claims, says Adam Mertz, grocery industry marketing manager for Unicru.

The Unicru system works in a similar way for unemployment claims. Once an employee is let go, the system sends an electronic alert to a third-party firm that processes unemployment claims and enables a retail manager to print out forms already prepared with the employee’s information. This helps prevent former employees from filing unqualified claims, Mertz says.

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